Panel again urges two revisions to city’s civil service rules

Panel agrees to recommend expanded drug, alcohol policy

By EVAN YOUNG

The Crestwood Civil Service Board voted last week to re-recommend to the Board of Aldermen two revisions to the city’s Civil Service Rules and Regulations.

Board members voted Dec. 15 to recommend aldermen repeal and replace language in the rules regarding employee political activity, and approve an expanded drug and alcohol policy.

The advisory board initially voted in July to recommend aldermen approve seven modifications proposed by City Administrator Jim Eckrich.

Aldermen eventually granted final approval to five of those changes but tabled a decision on changing the civil service rules’ section on political activity — Chapter 2, Section 5 — and the drug and alcohol policy — Chapter 13.

In his motion to table the decision, Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel asked that the Civil Service Board be informed of concerns he and former Civil Service Board Chair Martha Duchild had at the time about those two proposed revisions.

As initially proposed, the modification to the section on political activity would have changed language that currently reads, “City employees may not participate in, or assist any candidate for, elections to city office except by individual ballot. Any employee may, however, participate or contribute to the election or appointment of public officials to offices outside the political jurisdiction of the city of Crestwood.”

The proposed revision would have deleted the first sentence and changed the second to read, “Any employee may, however, participate in or contribute to a political candidate, political party or political cause so long as such participation or contribution occurs during the employee’s personal time and does not involve the use of any city resources.”

City Attorney Rob Golterman has said the current civil service rules’ section on political activity is inconsistent with state and federal laws “regarding one’s constitutional rights to participate in the political process” and warranted the proposed amendment.

But allowing employees to openly participate in city politics appears to conflict with a provision in Article 13 of the City Charter, which states, “No city employee shall solicit any contribution for the campaign fund of any candidate for Crestwood city office or take part in the political campaign of any candidate for Crestwood city office.”

Golterman has said he doesn’t believe the two documents contradict each other. He said the charter can be — and should be — interpreted in such a way that city employees, as private citizens, have the right to be politically active.

However, Eckrich told the Civil Service Board last week the language in the civil service rules and the charter “does not match.” He recommended the charter’s language on employee political activity be copied into the civil service rules.

“We looked into trying to do some things with political activity to try to clarify what’s in the charter, and I think ultimately what Rob recommended, and I agree with, is that it might just be best to mimic the language that’s in the charter inside the Civil Service Rules and (Regulations) …,” Eckrich said. “I think from the employees’ standpoint it would be great if we could clarify this, but I think if we tried to do that, we’d end up creating a Section 5 that’s eight pages long, and I’m not sure that’s beneficial to anyone either.”

Civil Service Board Chair Carol Wagner said, “I agree with making them both the same, because that eliminates a lot of potential problems — it’s this way here, it’s that way there.”

The board also voted last week to recommend aldermen approve an expanded drug and alcohol policy. Currently, the policy applies only to “safety-sensitive employees,” or “any employee who operates a commercial motor vehicle for the city and holds a commercial driver’s license …”

The modification initially proposed in July added a paragraph to the applicability section to include employees who aren’t safety sensitive. However, last year the Civil Service Board — then comprised of Duchild, Catherine Barnes and Gretchen Huston — drafted an additional chapter, Chapter 14, on non-safety-sensitive employee substance abuse policy. They were directed to do so by the Board of Aldermen.

Approved minutes of the Aug. 28, 2008, Civil Service Board meeting state board members reviewed a list of questions Eckrich gave to Duchild about their policy.

At the time, then-Assistant City Administrator Brian Gross recommended discussion “be tabled until the Civil Service Board is able to meet with Mr. Eckrich to discuss his inquiries.” The board voted to table the discussion, but did not meet again in an official capacity until July 22 — with Duchild, Barnes and Huston replaced by Wagner, Kevin King and Steve Knarr.

Eckrich has said the initial Chapter 13 revision reflected what the previous Civil Service Board wanted to accomplish by drafting a separate chapter.

However, Duchild has contended that, compared to the Chapter 14 draft, the proposed new paragraph for Chapter 13 was too vague.

She has said the Chapter 14 draft was “almost a mirror copy” of Kirkwood’s drug and alcohol policy, and that the previous Civil Service Board also examined three other municipalities’ policies when drafting it.

After hearing Duchild’s concerns, the Civil Service Board voted in September to table any action on the drug and alcohol policy but indicated that, after receiving input from city department heads, it would either expand Chapter 13 or adopt Chapter 14.

Eckrich said last week the department heads preferred one chapter with an expanded drug and alcohol policy over two chapters.

“Essentially what we’ve done is we’ve taken Chapter 13 which previously covered only the city’s safety-sensitive employees — which essentially covers employees with (commercial driver’s licenses) — and we’ve made this applicable to all the city employees, with the exception that the other city employees won’t be subject to random testing.”

The new Chapter 13 contains separate “General Rules” and “Controlled Substance and Alcohol Testing Provisions” sections for non-safety-sensitive employees.

“We feel like creating one drug and alcohol policy for everybody makes the most sense, but we realize when doing this that there are restrictions and testing procedures that are going to have to be conducted for the CDL drivers that our other employees shouldn’t be subject to,” Eckrich said.